CHAP. LI DECAY OF THE CALIPHATE 83 built a new palace which cost untold sums of money. Connected with it is the legend of Kishmar, already mentioned in Chapter IX. as the meeting-place of Zoroaster and King Gustasp. It is stated that in order to commemorate this event the Prophet of Iran planted a cypress, which grew to a prodigious size and was regarded as sacred by the Zoroastrians. The fanatical Caliph ordered the tree, which was believed by that time to be 1450 years old, to be felled, and, although large sums were offered to save it, it was cut down and trans- ported in sections to Samarra ; but according to the legend Mutawakkil was slain by his son on the day these reached the palace. The story has some value as indicat-1 ing the hold that Zoroastrianism still retained in the province then known as Kuhistan. Incidentally, too, it affords some help towards fixing the date of the meeting between Zoroaster and Gustasp. The Tahiri Dynasty^ A.H. 205-259 (820-872).— Mention has already been made of Tahir, the famous general of Mamun who governed Khorasan. Under his sons Nishapur succeeded Merv as the capital of what was a semi-independent dynasty holding sway in Khorasan for over half a century. The princes of this family were unambitious and made no attempt to fish in troubled waters, and the dynasty collapsed with little resistance when attacked by the Saffarids in A.H. 259 (872). In 1909 I came across a small section of the Tahiri tribe in the district of Turshiz to the south of Nishapur ; 1 was also informed that irrigation pipes are occasionally found stamped with the name of this dynasty.1 A Period of Anarchy, A.H. 247-256 (861-870).— Mutawakkil having alienated his eldest son, Muntassir, by grossly abusing him when under the influence of drink, a conspiracy of Turkish officers was formed in the interest of the heir-apparent, and the Caliph was murdered in his sleep. Muntassir succeeded, but died within a year, and a period of anarchy ensued, during which Baghdad under- went a second siege, and the Turkish soldiers made and murdered caliphs at their pleasure. Rebellions, too, 1 Journal R.G.S. for February 1911.